Modeling Chemical Exfoliation of Non-van der Waals Chromium Sulfides by Machine Learning Interatomic Potentials and Monte Carlo Simulations





Citation of Original Publication

Ibrahim, Akram, Daniel Wines, and Can Ataca. “Modeling Chemical Exfoliation of Non-van Der Waals Chromium Sulfides by Machine Learning Interatomic Potentials and Monte Carlo Simulations.” The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, January 10, 2024.


This document is the unedited Author’s version of a Submitted Work that was subsequently accepted for publication in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, copyright © American Chemical Society after peer review. To access the final edited and published work see



The chemical exfoliation of non-van der Waals (vdW) materials to ultrathin nanosheets remains a formidable challenge. This difficulty arises from the strong preference of these materials to engage in three-dimensional chemical bonding, resulting in uncontrolled atomic migration into the vdW gaps during cation deintercalation from the bulk structure, ultimately leading to unpredictable structural disorder. Computational models capable of comprehending the widespread nonstoichiometric local environments resulting from disordered atomic migrations during the exfoliation of non-vdW materials are crucial for understanding the underlying mechanisms. Here, we propose a generic framework using neural network potentials (NNPs) to accurately model nonstoichiometric systems over a broad range of vacancy concentrations. We apply our framework to investigate the crystal structures and phase transformations occurring during the exfoliation of non-vdW nonstoichiometric Cr₍₁₋ₓ₎S systems, a compelling material category with substantial potential for two-dimensional (2D) magnetic applications. The efficacy of the NNP outperforms conventional cluster expansion, exhibiting superior accuracy and transferability to unexplored crystal structures and compositions. By employing the NNP in simulated annealing optimizations, we predict low-energy Cr₍₁₋ₓ₎S structures anticipated to result from experimental synthesis. A notable structural transition is discerned at the Cr₀.₅S composition, with half of the Cr atoms preferentially migrating to vdW gaps. This aligns with experimental observations in the chemical exfoliation of 2D CrS₂ and emphasizes the vital role of excess Cr atoms beyond the Cr/S = 1/2 composition ratio in stabilizing vdW gaps. Additionally, we utilize the NNP in a large-scale vacancy diffusion Monte Carlo simulation to illustrate the impact of lateral compressive strains in catalyzing the formation of vdW gaps within non-vdW CrS₂ slabs through Poisson’s axial expansion. This provides a direct pathway for more facile exfoliation of ultrathin nanosheets from non-vdW materials through strain engineering. The implemented methodology, leveraging machine learning potentials, is imperative to bridge the quantum-level accuracy to large scales necessary for modeling the intricate mechanisms underlying the chemical exfoliation of non-vdW materials.